Gordon Smith was born and raised in Southern New Jersey, an area with a rich tradition of glasswork and many glass factories within an hour’s drive of his home. From the time he was fourteen, Gordon was developing his skills as a glass artist. While still in high school, he first experimented with manipulating hot glass with a simple torch and some clear glass rods that his father had bought for him. From 1977 to 78, Gordon received formal glass training in scientific glassblowing technology at Salem County Community College.
He worked as a scientific glassblower for three years. He hand-fabricated laboratory apparatus used by the petroleum, drug, and scientific research industries. Gordon received his exposure to paperweights through the works of James and Nontas Kontes, owners of the scientific glass company that he was working for at the time. Simultaneously, while volunteering at WheatonArts (known back then as Wheaton Village), Gordon learned the traditional ways of working with hot glass, gathering the glass from a hot tank, and then shaping and forming it with the age-old tools used by glassblowers.
Although Gordon is self-taught in the art of paperweight making, the Kontes brothers offered him valuable guidance, advice, and endless support as he learned to make lampworked paperweights. He considers them his glass mentors and shares a cherished friendship with both brothers.
To this day, he continues to learn new techniques for working glass through research, trial and error, and participation in workshops.